I live in one of the most amazing cities in the whole world: Mexico City, which also happens to have one of the best cuisines ever!
Eating Mexican street food is one of the best ways to practice your Spanish and to get to know the heart and soul of Mexico!
En este artículo vas a aprender (In this article you will learn) what you need to know to have an amazing street food experience at a Mexican food truck —whether you find one in Mexico itself or in another country around the world!
I will share with you the essential Spanish chunks that you will need to comer en la calle (eat street food) in any Spanish-speaking country. More about what chunks are and how they can ease your way into fluency, later on in the article…
Also, you’ll get to discover the infamous T-diet that Mexicans adore…
CHUNKS for a successful street food experience
With the chunks that I am going to teach you now, you will be able to have a great experience comiendo en la calle (literally: eating on the streets, that is, eating street food).
CHUNKS? Yes, chunks, premade phrases or word combinations that you hear native speakers use all the time… and if you use them yourself, you instantly sound more natural speaking Spanish.
Here at Spring Spanish, our team of polyglots and linguists have put together a method based on the use of chunks to ease the way of our students into fluency. More on that in the FREE Spanish chunking training on our website.
So, you get to the place… Usually, taco and torta stands have a menu somewhere, so you will know what fillings they have. But if they don’t have one or if you are at a tamales or quesadillas stand, which usually don’t show a menu, start your experience with this chunk:
- ¿De qué hay? (Literally: Of what there is?)
Then, they will tell you what flavor or fillings they have available. Sometimes, even if you see a menu, not all the items on it will be available. To make sure, you can ask this: ¿Sí hay de todo? (Literally: Do have of it all? Is everything available?)
Once you know what you want, you place your order with this beauty of a chunk: Me da… (Literally: Can you give me?; more idiomatically, “May I have…?”)
- Uno de bisteck y dos de pastor (One of beef and one shepherd style)
- ¿Con todo? (With everything?) —This is what el taquero or the quesadillas lady will ask you.
What constitutes TODO may vary. If you want the full experience, answer with this chunk: Sí, con todo, por favor.
- ¿Qué lleva? (What does it come with?)
If you’re not sure, ask what they will the put in it. Typical things that go on antojitos are:
- Queso (Cheese)
- Salsa (Sauce)
- Cebolla (Onion)
- Nopales (Mexican cactus)
- Cilantro (Coriander for our UK friends)
Other chunks to specify how you want your street food:
- Poca salsa (A little salsa)
- Natural (Natural)
This a very Mexican way to say you don’t want cilantro, onion, lettuce or anything else on your taco or your quesadillas.
- Uno de longaniza natural, por favor.
The relationship between your provider of antojitos and you is based on an unshakable trust. Nunca (Never) lie to your taquero (your taco guy).
When it is time to get the bill, although you can ask the typical “La cuenta, por favor” (The check, please), you’re gonna sound more natural if you say any of these 2 chunks:
- ¿Cuánto es? (How much is it?)
- ¿Me cobra, por favor? (Literally: Can you charge me, please? May I pay you?)
Now, the person from the stand will answer something along the lines of:
- ¿Qué le cobro? (What should I charge you for?)
- ¿Qué fue? (What was it?)
- ¿Cuántos fueron? (Literally: How many were they?)
And then, here is when you say what you consumed: answer with the number and type of food you had. Basically, just repeat the order!
Next time you come to Mexico City (or any Spanish-speaking place), do use these chunks and trust me, you will be able to communicate without a problem!!!
Common Stree Food in Mexico (There’s more to tacos!)
Now, of course Mexican street food is more than just tacos and tortas. So, let’s go over some of the most common delicious dishes you’ll find en puestos callejeros (at street food stands).
As you may know, Mexico’s food is part of UNESCO’S world heritage of humankind, and one of the reasons to have such a distinction is that it is still based on a trio of key ingredients: corn, beans and chillies!
Yeah! Before the Spaniards invaded our land, indigenous people were already making tacos and sopes and then they took that food, added the new ingredients that came from the old world and created a whole new cuisine!
Te digo esto porque (I’m telling you this because) you are going to notice how many times I will say the words corn, beans and chillies when I describe the dishes that are most commonly found in the streets of Mexico.
You will notice that many of our antojitos (literally: little cravings) are basically different arrangements of the same ingredients.
Huaraches are made with a thick tortilla that kind of resembles a typical Mexican sandal called HUARACHE.
They are cooked on a flat grill and topped with a layer of beans, salsa and cheese. Additionally, they are topped with bistec (thin beef steak) or longaniza (a Mexican sausage, similar to chorizo) or some other type of meat.
Sopes are open-faced thick tortillas topped with fillings like papa con chorizo (potatoes with chorizo). They are topped with cheese, salsa and onion.
This dish is also known as picaditas or pellizcadas (little pinched ones) in other parts of Mexico, where they’re usually smaller and not always come with meat.
Gorditas (Little fat ones)
A very thick tortilla where the dough has been mixed with chicharrón prensado and then fried.
Once it’s cooked, it is sliced into some sort of a pocket that is filled with cheese, onion and cream (the filling type depends on where you are in the country), and then it is heated on the grill.
This one can be a controversial topic in Mexico!
When you hear the word quesadilla, the vast majority of Mexicans think of a tortilla that is folded and is filled with queso (cheese) and something else (like meat; champiñones (mushrooms); flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), etc.)…
BUT in Mexico City, when people use the word quesadilla, they mean an elongated tortilla with a filling on it that is then folded and cooked on a comal.
So, huaraches, sopes, gorditas, quesadillas are usually found in the same stands… and curiously, somehow these kinds of stalls are run by women… it’s something that I have noticed recently…
Get in Shape with the T-Diet
Now, remember I mentioned something about a T-diet? Sí, la dieta de la T (the letter T diet)… Yes, that’s how we refer to a series of foods that start with letter T, that is, tamales, tacos, tortas…
Corn dough mixed with a little pork lard spread inside a corn or banana husk… Then, salsa (which could be green, red, etc) and some meat, that can be pork or chicken or some vegetables, like jalapeño or poblano chilli.
Tamales are steamed and they’re usually a morning street food in Mexico City. Here, tamales are also served inside a piece of bread, specifically a bolillo. Yeah! As if tamales weren’t already a bomb of carbs, we go and make a torta out of them…
Now, what is a torta?
Tortas are Mexico’s sandwiches. On top of the main ingredient (usually cold cuts or meats), they come with tomato, lettuce, onion, salsa, and/or pickle jalapenos.
The bread, which is called telera, is spread with refried beans and mayonnaise to make one of the most comforting, beautiful dishes you can have en la calle.
Mi torta favorita (my favorite torta) is la torta de milanesa (the milanese torta)… If you want to kidnap me, you can use a torta de milanesa as bait!!!
Tacos are my favorite comfort food! They’re part of the top 5 foods to try in Mexico.
Alright, so tacos are normally made with 2 smallish tortillas, topped with meat and garnished with cilantro and cebolla.
Some people say that the key to a great taco es la salsa… and I agree!
So, which of these dishes have you tried already? Which one are you curious about? Let me know in the comments!
Now, it’s great that you know about Mexican street food, but what about other types of Mexican food? That’s what we will be covering in my next video, where you will learn about some very typical and weird Mexican food that I love! And even better, you will also learn how to make a super Mexican beer cocktail to impress your friends!